The inescapable reality of our changing climate will have a significant impact on how we organize ourselves in societies, what resources we exploit and how we respect and honor each other in a world where increased interconnectedness has collapsed the traditional six degrees of separation into one. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Arctic where warming temperatures are displacing entire ecosystems and changing local populations’ way of life. However, although there is a wealth of scientific data to explain these disruptions, we still lack the narratives that can help us organize these facts into stories of personal significance and turn a chaotic moment in human history into an opportunity for growth.
The Arctic Cycle — a six-play cycle which explores the six regions of the High Arctic: United States, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and Russia — is my way of addressing this situation. The Cycle will look at the different facets of the Arctic and investigates how theatre can address the many challenges faced by communities on the frontline of climate change. Each play will focus on issues of significance to that particular region as well as examine how those connect to the rest of the world.
The first play of The Arctic Cycle, SILA, was commissioned by Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company in San Diego and focuses on Canada. It was workshopped at Mo`olelo and at Playwrights’ Workshop MontrÃ©al, was presented as a public reading at the York University Conference Staging Sustainability: Arts, Community, Culture, Environment in Toronto, was a finalist for the New York Coalition of Professional Women in the Arts & Media Collaboration Award and is scheduled for a more extensive workshop at the University of Connecticut in the spring of 2012.
The second play of the the Cycle, FORWARD, will focus on the Svalbard Archipelago (located midway between Norway and the North Pole) and investigate how Arctic sea ice has impacted human imagination throughout history. Taking its title from Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen’s ship Fram, which translates as Forward in English, the play will juxtapose three see voyages taking place at three different times in history: Nansen’s 1895 North Pole expedition, a present-day luxury cruise retracing Nansen’s steps and a cargo ship journey set in the future.
Now the exciting part: Research for the writing of FORWARD will take place during an upcoming 17-day sailing expedition organized by The Arctic Circle (www.thearcticcircle.org). Taking place from September 29 to October 16, 2011, the program invites artists, scientists, educators and architects to collectively explore a region of the Arctic and respond to this experience in their work. As I develop the story, the expedition will give me the opportunity to deepen my knowledge of the region, immerse myself in a maritime Arctic environment, and have access to artists who have similar interests and might become collaborators. It will also provide an intensely focused period of time to concentrate on this new play and learn about the people and geography of the Norwegian Arctic.